Sookie Stackhouse series–Charlaine Harris

Books 1-3: Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, and Club Dead.

Harris certainly knows how to write a fun female protagonist. Sookie Stackhouse is waitress. She’s unschooled, doesn’t have a typical education, but has a lot of people smarts. Why? Sookie is a rare human telepath in a world filled with vampires who’ve come out of the coffin, were-people (who have not) and other supernatural creatures/goddesses, etc.

It’s a world that’s cock-eyed, but what saves it is Sookie’s point of view, and her extremely quirky brother and family.  Sookie is enamored of Bill the Vampire, at first because she can’t read his mind. He’s a closed book. For a vampire, he’s a nice guy…but is he a Nice Guy ™?

The first three books touch on sex addiction and unhealthy relationships, which gradually even Sookie realizes is what she suffers from with Bill and his boss, Eric. Like another famous vampire groupy in another book/movie series, her blood is different, irresistible, and all the male vampires want to have sex with her–and tell her! Sookie appears to take all the sexual desirability into stride, though. She doesn’t take the guys lying down–not all the time! And has enough back-bone to kick them out of her life periodically.

As much fun as I was having reading Harris’ books, I started having reservations about all the hawt sexxing Sookie has with Bill and Eric (does she never have bad or ordinary sex? Does that not exist in this ‘verse?). Why do so many of the decent female characters, other than Sookie, end up dead, deader and deadest, or have minor roles or are negative?

I’m glad I read the series up until the third book, but I probably won’t read too much farther on. I do recommend the first three, if only to experience a woman in an urban fantasy style book who has a talent, but considers it a handicap-at least for the first few books. Sookie is a lot of fun.

The TV series–please comment on that here, too, if you want! Compare and contrast! What do you think of the book series, and the cable series?

Comments

  1. Terra says

    I’m not really sure I can agree with you there, but then again, you’ve only read a few of the books. Sookie doesn’t sleep with every male vampire (or male in the series) by a long shot, to start with, and not every male vampire wants to have sex with her. There are many strong, important, female characters who do live, who have lives of their own, and who help Sookie out with their own abilities and/or powers. Also, given that before Bill all of Sookie’s sexual experiences had been either of the bad or badder kind, I’m not so sure that the “hawt sexxing” you’re talking about is out of place. If all you’ve ever had is hideousness, even ordinary sex might seem kind of great in comparison, huh? And, the “irresistible” blood is explained later in the series, where it makes some sense – among other things, her brother also has irresistible blood. Incidentally, Sookie never views her telepathy as anything other than a handicap, at least through the 9th book.

    I’ve only seen half the first season of True Blood, but there are some significant differences. It was decent, but I like the books better.

    I like the Sookie Stackhouse books much, much more than the books about the other famous vampire groupie leopard queen chick in part because at least in this book there’s plot and character development, with sex on the side, and not the other way around. Incidentally, Harris’s mysteries are also good reads.

  2. says

    I guess it depends on how you define sex: the scene where Eric lets her suck his blood out (either book 2 or 3, probably 3) to heal her injuries from being accidentally staked–is about as sexual as you can get without actual penetration: he dry humps her from behind and he is clearly having a great time.

    Good point about Sookie’s earlier experiences with the Dirty Old Uncle…however, as bad as that was, through her point of view she describes how constantly mind-blowing the sex is, and in one of the three books tells about another vampire junky who is also, she realizes, sexually addicted to his female vampire.

    I found it interesting how Harris gradually makes Sookie realize that perhaps her relationship to Bill isn’t as wonderful as it first seems-and that she goes back to him like a battered wife goes back to her batterer. After all, the sex is still awesome, right? That’s all a girl needs? I love how she has the will and guts to kick both of the vampires out of her house, to their utter shock.

  3. Theora23 says

    I prefer the TV series because it takes those minor characters and gives them more depth. The series also has more diversity of both main cast and extras, which I much appreciate. I enjoyed the first few books well enough, but the series has the ability to present the richness of the world as a whole rather than just the version of the world that Sookie encounters, and this gives it a perhaps unfair advantage with me.

    As to the sex, it does make sense that Sookie’s sexual experiences with the vampires tend to be more “hawt” than ordinary. In supernatural romances, vampires are often depicted as superior lovers because they’ve had much more time to learn a lot of ways of pleasing their partners, and because the pleasure endorphins are supposed to add something to the taste of the blood.

    In the TV series, at least, the human-human relationships and sexual experiences are more varied and more… well, human. Good sex, bad sex, hot yet abstinent attractions, sweet flirtations, bad pillow talk, and so on.

    Of course the show is more graphic in depictions of both sex and violence, so that may be an issue with some fans of the books.

  4. Robin says

    I’ve only read the first book, but I’ve much preferred the TV series. The thing that most turned me off about the book was Sookie’s narrative voice, which is absent on the tube. I also love TV Tara a whole lot. She’s just as messed up as any of the other characters, but at least she can see when her best friend is in trouble and try to get her out of it. But then, I tend to appreciate the voice-of-reason character in any story.

  5. says

    Robin, that’s fascinating, because I really liked Sookie’s voice, at least through the three books I read. The book series does limit the point of view to only hers, unlike a TV series, which can expand and show what goes on outside the experience of the main character, and that’s interesting that the TV series goes so far out of her first person narration.

  6. Raeka says

    I can see the points people have made about the TV show allowing the viewer to see more points of view than Sookie’s own, but I personally much preferred the books. It was interesting to see some relatively minor characters get more development in the TV series, but it seemed to occur at the cost of molding Sookie into a flat, cookie-cutter character. I adore the novels’ version of Sookie –I own a bunch of the books– but I can’t stand the TV version of Sookie. To me, she seems to have been transformed into a preachy, not-too-bright Blonde. Some of the things that ticked me off the most:

    – the way she’s always interrupting and ‘standing up to’ vampires without any fear of reprisals whatsoever, and they let her get away with it! It often feels like the show is using Sookie to put through some sort of moral line, using her as the Good Girl, standing up to the Evil Powerful Oppressors. The show completely ignores the fact that vampires just wouldn’t stand for this nonsense, however she might have helped them out. (More specifically, the recent episode where Sookie got into that catfight with Bill’s maker and the vampire ran away crying like a little girl. Wtf?)
    – The scene after the Fellowship of the Sun fiasco where Jason and Sookie are talking together, and Jason tells Sookie he doesn’t want to talk about Gran. And Sookie’s immediate response is ‘But we have to talk about Gran!’ Some of the points she made afterwards somewhat mollified me, but I know if I’d been Jason, I would’ve been pissed off by Sookie running rough-shod over what I told her I wanted (‘I don’t want to talk about Gran’) and pretty much ordering me to talk about my feelings. It made Sookie look like those highly irritating girls who accept that they should be the Communicators in the relationship, without actually understanding what it means to communicate. If I were a man, and this was the only kind of girl I had experience with, I’d be dreading the phrase ‘We have to talk’, too.

    I’m pretty sure there were some other examples/issues I had, but this is off the top of my mind, and I have to get back to work. Meh.

  7. MaggieCat says

    (More specifically, the recent episode where Sookie got into that catfight with Bill’s maker and the vampire ran away crying like a little girl. Wtf?)

    Lorena didn’t run away crying because of Sookie, she was going to kill her. She left because Godric ordered her out of his home and it would be suicidal to ignore the 2,000 year old sheriff of that area when he stops you from killing a human he respects (I’ve heard the show made huge changes from book Godric, so I have no idea how a similar situation would have played out there — I’m not planning on reading the books until after the show’s covered the material) and she was crying because Bill had made it quite clear he never wanted any contact with her ever again.

    Sookie was little more than a speed bump to Lorena, she just failed to realize there was a vampire far more powerful than she is who would side with the human in this case (two actually, it’s doubtful Eric would have let Sookie die after she risked her life to save his maker plus he was the one who called Lorena in the first place) and even if Sookie was most likely overestimating Bill’s ability to do anything about Lorena she was well aware of Godric’s order not to kill any humans and had cause to feel secure.

  8. PGM says

    I always loved Charlaine Harris for writing heroines that were unabashedly flawed and not always the most noble, without super powers–she can read minds but doesn’t really have anything that helps her in, say, a fight–that survive and win through simple sense, determination and practicality. Sookie would grab a baseball bat or a shovel when trouble was inevitable–not because she leapt to fight, but because she never–and almost never even thought to–put herself and her safety in someone else’s hands. She didn’t have special martial arts and she did things any young woman could do and won doing it. And cheerfully, unashamedly liked sex!

    Sookie is a young woman with a healthy sex drive, imagination, and lovers that have had centuries to practice. I didn’t find it all that unrealistic that two people with a good amount of experience between them shouldn’t have great sex, but I’m sure expectations of the genre factored in–novels rarely involve terrible or even mediocre sex. And considering pretty much all the sex she has is with Bill in the first three books and he starts off as a competent lover and they end having been romantic partners for sometime, with Sookie being a professedly eager learner, it seemed natural enough.

    Not to say that they aren’t problematic in later books. I was *extremely* angry with the later treatment of Arlene and Tara, Sookie’s close friends; I ditched them for a while, and maintained at the time and still kind of do that Harris pulled a reprehensible retcon to vilify them. While all of the characters are openly acknowledged as being flawed, the ratio of flawed-but-decent male character far outweighs the female characters.

    As for your statement that she has a ‘talent’ that she ‘considers’ a disability, please read this.

    The TV show is all kinds of awful. Rampant with racism and sexism: suddenly the only people of colour are a prostitute/drug dealer, an abusive alcoholic, and a woman who accuses people of being racist for taking her at her word and discussing sex with her. (She’s like a fantasy come to life for all the ‘you’re just over-sensitive’ jackasses everywhere to feel self-righteous about.) Each character gets their own white character to come in and chastise/reform them.

    Suddenly Sookie, who states in the second book that she isn’t ‘in love’ with Bill and is *always* determined to be independant and quick to take care of herself throughout all books is constantly cooing that she belongs to him, asking his forgiveness after he verbally and physically abuses her because she disobeys him–this being a Bill who, rather than being somewhat closed-off and disconnected from human mores, is condescending and controlling and portrayed as romantically perfect–and every single instance in the books where Sookie is in a crisis and saves herself, in the show she suddenly needs a man/men to come in and rescue her. I am not kidding. *Every single one.* And suddenly we have a character state that a woman who was sexually promiscuous, including sleeping with vampires, was ‘asking for it’ and framing Sookie’s objection in terms of being involved with vampires herself, and defensive. And one of the romantic interests sexually harasses and verbally abuses her while in the position of her employer, later chastising her for not paying him enough attention a short amount of time after she’s been *assaulted.* And is portrayed as a positive, sympathetic guy we’re supposed to root for because apparently he’s been pining after her. He’s a Nice Guy, all right.

    And ditto on the suddenly Sookie being, with all due respect, Too Stupid Too Live–her arrogance when interacting with vampires who blithely watched someone try to murder her from a few feet away and explicitly threatened her and blackmailed her, regarding her complete surety of her safety, makes for a good Faux!Action heroine, who talk back real nice at illogical moments and then inevitably has to have a man rescue her. One villain of the second season/book, the maenad, is suddenly a mad fangirl obssessed with getting her god to come ravish and kill her, rather than the powerful force of nature that survived her god’s death. Oh, and the Latina werewolf that Sookie escapes the Church with is wiped out of existence so Sookie’s boyfriend can sweep in instead.

    Oh, and now Eric is the type of vampire to stand by and watch her be killed and then magically force her to be sexually attracted to him, but he’s still a prospective love interest. About 60% of the show’s screentime is devoted to Jason Stackhouse’s tawdry sex, extreme lack of intelligence, and drug habit. (He is complicit in a man’s murder, cleans up after it to keep his ass out of the fire, and is never ever called on it. His female accomplice is of course gotten rid of.)

    There’s lots more to cover. I could go on and on.

  9. Gategrrl says

    I think of Sookie as being a lot like the X-men characters. She has a power, but it’s not necessarily a blessing in her life, and it’s not like she’s Jean Grey who can (in her later incarnations) control it with finesse.

    That was an interesting article, thanks for the link.

  10. me2 says

    I recently purchased a nook – it arrived on monday, and I’ve spent a LOT of time with it. When it got here I bought the Sookie Stackhouse boxed set. The price was right, and I had read some of the books before, and thought they would be light, fun reading. The price was right too.

    So in the last 4 days, I’ve read 8 Sookie Stackhouse books. When you read them back to back, you start noticing how formulaic and “writer’s workshoppy” they are. By the time I hit book 8 last night, it was work to get through it, and I started just skimming for plot points.

    There were other things that started to bother me too. Now I live in rural Louisiana. I know that race is an issue with a lot of people. But a couple books in, I started noticing some uncomfortable ways the author dealt with race. I couldn’t help but to think that was the author’s own predjudices coming through. I started wondering, if these little mentions and jabs got through – I wonder what the editor culled out?

    All in all I think it was just a little bit of an overload. I haven’t read book 9….but it will be a while before I get around to it, if ever.

  11. sflowers says

    I agree about the race issue. I am currently on book 6 and I noticed the not to subtle ways the author dealt with race. Infact, I don’t recall anyting positive being said about anyone of color so far.

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